Friday, October 19, 2012

Taking the bus in China

How to pay?

  • You pay when you get on the bus. You should insert the note or the coins in the slot. 
  • You can also pay using a magnetic bus card. Cards are new since 2009, 2010 in Changsha. However you need a Chinese Idendity Card or a resident permit a working visa if you want to use a magnetic bus card.

Using a bus card has several advantages : you don’t need to always have 1 rmb coin in your wallet. The transportation fee is cheaper: the more you use you card, the cheaper the transportation fee!

Bus price
We can find two bus categories:

  • Fast buses are more confortable. They have air conditionning and in principle they go faster, since they have less stop. They cost 2 yuans.
  • Normal buses are less confortable : no air conditionning and more crowded. They cost 1 yuan.

Also there are some long distance buses that will go from buses stations to other cities. I will tell you more about these buses and the different stations in Changsha.

In Changsha, buses are modernized. Old buses who were up 10 years old diseappeared. However you can still see a few older buses. They pollute a lot.

Where to stop? What bus number? 
It is difficult to take the bus for a foreigner : you should remember the bus number and bus stop except if you can read Chinese caracters ! In fact bus travels are written in the bus but only in Chinese ! Taking the bus is therefore difficult for a foreigner

There should soon have some I-phone tool with bus lines and stops in English...

How to get in and out of buses?
When buses are crowded because of traffic jams, it is difficult to get in and out. 
Normaly you get in front and go out from the back. But when there are too many people inside the bus, you can climb up from the back. Once inside the bus, give the money to the person next you and your money will go from hand to hand to the front cash slot. 

Beware: rough drive on Chinese buses
Bus driver are crazy: they don't know how to drive! They will drive very slowly or very quickly. They will slam on the brake! They will decide not to stop at a bus stop. They will run a red light. They will honk at other vehicles...

Why is that?
There are two logical explanations for this :

  • I have heard that most bus drivers used to be truck drivers. They used to drive overloaded trucks with no good brakes. And keep driving in a similar way when they drive buses.
  • The payment of bus drivers includes and important commission plan! Bus driver are paid according to the number of passengers they transport! More passengers= more money at the end of the month. 
This is the best way in China to motivate the employees: bonus/ penalty
This is also a guarantee that all passengers pay their travel fee. In fact the driver has to make sure that passengers pay when they get on the bus.

This is NOT the best way to assure a safe driving. And it leads to crazy driving.
We find two bus drivers strategies:

  1. Some drive really fast. They don't mind anything: red lights, stop signs, skip bus stop who have less people customers, start while passenger are still climbing in, zigzag... 
  2. Some drive extremely slowly in order to get a maximum number of passengers waiting at each stop. I think that this strategy will bring less cash at the end of the end. But it is also less tiring for the bus driver.

Televisions show short videos: Charlie Chaplin, hoax and fashion shows with many western faces. This is a good way to relax passengers. Online TV are also the perfect advertisement platform for KFC, Mac Donalds... since many children and parents take the buses.

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